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Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

Rome: The River Tiber, with the Aventine Hill to the Left

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0558: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: The River Tiber, with the Aventine Hill to the Left, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 27.5 × 48.5 cm, 10 ⅞ × 19 ⅛ in. National Galleries of Scotland (D 5023.55).

Photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Rome: The River Tiber, with the Aventine Hill to the Left
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
27.5 × 48.5 cm, 10 ⅞ × 19 ⅛ in

‘25’ on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Collection Catalogue


Walker's Galleries, London, 1928; Sir Thomas Barlow (1845–1945); then by descent to Helen Alice Dorothy Barlow (1887–1975); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1976

Exhibition History

Edinburgh, 1979, no.35; Edinburgh, 2009, p.15 and p.142; Kitakyushu, 2017, no.44


Campbell, 1993, no.61 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Hamilton, 2009, p.15, p.17 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Baker, 2011, p.371 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view along the Tiber, looking downriver from an elevated viewpoint near the Ponte Rotto, displays many of the signs that mark the unique collaboration between Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Here they were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797, to make ‘finished drawings’ from the ‘Copies’ of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings of Cozens’ and other artists, amateur and professional, either from Monro’s collection or lent for the purpose. As the two young artists later recalled, Girtin generally ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’, which may account for the generally monochrome appearance of the works, and, as the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) reported, Turner received ‘3s. 6d each night’, though ‘Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1

As with the majority of the Roman views completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source for this image of the river looking south with the Aventine Hill to the left, though it is likely to have been from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97). Only a small proportion of the sketches that Cozens made during his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779 survive, but the auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794 contained twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels, and, as Kim Sloan has argued, given that Monro’s posthumous sale included only a few sketches by Cozens, the patron must have borrowed the outlines or tracings from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). The idea that the Monro School works were based on Cozens’ watercolours, still occasionally repeated in sales catalogues, is clearly no longer tenable, not even when, as here, the copy is comparatively large. Not only is there no Cozens watercolour of this subject but also sufficient large-scale outlines survive, notably in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (see TG0578 figure 1), to suggest that even the biggest Monro School drawings were not copied from his finished studio drawings.

When Turner visited Rome for the first time in 1819, he adopted a similar viewpoint to make a sketch looking along the river to the Aventine (Tate, Turner Bequest (D16257), showing, as here, the campanile of Sant’Alesso and that of Santa Maria del Priorato. But, typically, he did not adopt the panoramic view employed here by Cozens. The wide open prospect was always a part of Cozens’ practice as a landscape artist, and this was something that Girtin, in particular, responded to, and it was one of the most important lessons he took away from his work at Monro’s house.

Monro School drawings were invariably sold from Monro’s collection as by Turner alone, and, although Andrew Wilton has established the joint authorship of many of the works, this example has never been associated with Girtin (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). However, although the pencil work, where it is visible, is quite reticent, if not strictly functional, and lacks the inventive flourishes that mark Girtin’s best contributions to the production of the Monro School copies, there is no clear evidence that Turner was responsible for executing the outlines as well as adding the colour. There may not be anything to positively identify Girtin as the author of the outline drawing, but there is no reason either to suspect that the artists’ account of their practice at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798) does not hold good for this work too.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The ‘Temple of the Sibyl’ and the Cascades Seen from Below


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The full diary entry, giving crucial details of the artists’ work at Monro’s house, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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